I trust these last few days have been a whirlwind of making lists, buying things, getting geared up to give them and the realization that there's much to do in these next few weeks. A treasured holiday season tradition is to donate to your favorite nonprofit organizations. Whether you do it on Giving Tuesday or some other time this year, I thought you might enjoy some guidance on giving from your very own personal stylist for women (who happens to have also had a career in giving, does philanthropic consulting and serves on a nonprofit Board.) Please enjoy and hey, let me know what you think.
What You Need to Know About
1. Great Nonprofits.
Think of this as Yelp for nonprofits. Great Nonprofits rates organizations and allows reviews, too. It's a great way to get a feel for organizations doing work in areas you care about and a quick way to get a sense of the organization.
2. Charity Navigator.
This is the hub for information on nonprofits: 7 million people visited the Charity Navigator website last year to get information on various nonprofit organizations. Learn about an organization's budget, administrative costs and other relevant data. This is also a great place to go when you want to donate to help with a specific cause but aren't sure what organizations are doing the work. For example- California Wildfires or nonprofits that help women and girls.
3. Misconceptions Around Administrative Costs.
It's not uncommon for potential donors to use the percentage of the overall budget that goes to administrative costs as an indicator of an organization's efficiency. The idea is that if a nonprofit keeps administrative costs low, more money is going "directly to solve the problem." After over two decades working and volunteering in this industry, I'd caution you to look at things differently. Administrative costs include salaries for employees. As a donor, I want the organizations I support to be paying a living wage to the employees who make the nonprofit run. That means higher administrative costs. Also, some things simply cost more than others. Creating sets for the opera or the symphony, as examples, can be particularly pricey. This means that arts organizations often have higher admin costs. Clearly, there's a place for administrative costs when choosing where you give. Just keep in mind that these costs are only a portion of the entire picture.
4. Nonprofits Can Stretch Your Dollar MUCH Further Than You Can. If You Can Give Money, That's Always the Best Option.
Donating canned goods feels wonderful. Generally, we're sharing something that we aren't going to eat with someone who (in theory) will. If you've got food to give, please do it. However, if you are trying to choose between donating something you already have and giving money, donating cash is always a better way to go. If you can do both- that's a major win. When we give to a nonprofit organization, we are giving because we trust that the team doing the work are experts in their fields. As an example, when it comes to food banks, the folks running those know what foods are going to fly off shelves and what will sit. We might want to donate "healthy" items to be especially helpful. But, when someone is visiting a food bank. he/she may not know how to cook some items that are donated. I know I wouldn't. They may not have the facilities to prepare certain options or the time needed to do so. Vegetarians or vegans will have different needs from folks who prefer meat. And large organizations like Food Lifeline and Northwest Harvest, who supply smaller foodbanks, are especially skilled at negotiating with companies to get food in bulk at steep discounts- much steeper than an individual typically could. This is simply an example to say- give what you can to organizations giving back to the community. But when you can give money, it will go further.
5. Just Do It.
It's so easy to intend to give and never get around to it. Setting up a recurring donation helps you forget about the expense and the organization predict income that can be leveraged to get grants and to plan for costs. Or, if you'd rather donate once, set a date on your calendar to do your charitable giving every year. Engage the kids in helping to choose the organizations. Celebrate your gift, no matter the size. Every little bit helps.
6. Some of My Favorites.
I'd can write an entire blog post about giving and leave out some of my favorite nonprofits. Really, there are simply too many to count. Here's the Poplin Give Back page with lots of info on some of my favorites. Happy Giving Tuesday.
Have some favorites of your own? Please share!